Album Review: Bargou 08 – Targ [Glitterbeat Records, 17th Febaruary 2017]

When you think of Tunisia, nothing less than the ruins of a great civilization, those of Carthage for example, come to mind. Think of a barren valley and a village, instead, between the mountains Northwest Tunisia and its border with Algeria, when contemplating Targ, by Nidhal Yahyaoui and his band Bargou 08. No, Targ’s are not the songs of hegemony, nor of Empire, despite the rame-drums, guembri and endblown flutes that Berber music also includes.

According to our guide Nidhal, son of Bargou, the village’s songs are products of isolation. He himself collected the region’s songs and recruited local and foreigners to orchestrate Bargou’s songs, electrifying them adding synth and rock drums into a lively, engaging, interpretation of tradition.

Why does it plunge you deeply into what feels like a song made labouring in a field or during a hunt, if it was recorded in a studio? Intensely felt, the songs of Targ are a mystery, but an educated guess would point to genius at composition and arrangement

Targ’s band delivers 42:41 minutes of pulsating orchestration. The first song is ‘Chech el Khater’, phenomenal, tender and kind. Its main attraction is its rhythm. ‘Mamchout’, the second track, is louder and lively. It fits in uniquely as the second song: it’s as if savoir vivre persuaded Nidhal and Bargou to open the album and follow it with mean, gogo (funk) like, percussion.

At times Targ’s vocals feel like they would be better suited to a woman’s voice but it remains interesting and consistent throughout, always loud and clear, and becomes more important on slower numbers such as ‘Le Min Ijiina’

Targ was recorded at Yahyaoui’s home. The point of his project was to present Bargou to the world through its songs. What’s the root of so much rhythm, so much resonance, where nothing grows and life is thus harder than usual; civilization came along with agriculture?

There’s this feeling that we are being played certitude, tools that work, testaments to the elasticity of the human condition. We feel the strength to chords of that elasticity with Targ, recorded far away from Tunis, Tunisia’s current capital, and far from Carthage, the city that Dido, Elissa, the goddess turned living queen founded, where Dido fell in love with Rome’s Aeneas though she vowed that after the death of husband Sychaeus she’d never marry again, where Dido’s sister Anna killed herself out of love for Aeneas.